UAF researcher prepares to study sea ice while ship frozen in sea ice

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A researcher from Fairbanks is preparing to be a part of an international Arctic expedition. In September, Marc Oggier, a PHD student at the International Arctic Research Center, will be leaving to spend a few months on an icebreaker that will be frozen into sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The MOSAIC expedition is a multidisciplinary drift observatory for the study of arctic climate and the goal is to understand better the arctic climate, "to have better forecasting of weather predictions but also to be able to make fact based policy for a sustainable future and development in the Arctic," said Oggier.

The expedition is divided into 6 different legs, with each leg being about two months, and Oggier will be on the first and fifth legs. He will leave Tromso, Norway, about September 21st and get back around January 4th, with the first leg being from October 15 to December 15. Oggier says the first month they are going to transit to where they find a nice piece of ice to anchor the icebreaker on, and then they will drift with the sea ice. Each week they will be doing the same research, with Mondays being when they gather ice cores. Oggier says the purpose of doing the same tests each week for a year is to gather an exact set of measurements for a season in the Arctic. The purpose of the expedition is to study changes in sea ice in the Central Arctic, a section that is hard to access so the team is going to purposely freeze an icebreaker ship in the sea ice, and then have other icebreakers switch out researchers every couple months.

Oggier says normally to study the Arctic in the winter you have to be based at a land base in locations like Utqiavik, Norway or Greenland. There are not many long term measurements in the central arctic during the winter, due to difficulty of access.

Seventeen nations are participating in the German led expedition, including the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and several European countries. One of the aspects of preparing for a large expedition of this kind, Oggier says, is getting everyone on the same page, since you have researchers from many different disciplines. So he says there have been lots of web meetings, and conversations working towards getting all researchers to take ice cores and measurements the same way. Another important part of preparing for a large expedition like this is packing up all of the gear that they will need to conduct their scientific experiments. Oggier says all of the gear they need needs to be packed up by mid-July, and if you forget a necessary piece it is not easily sent to you.

"I've been doing lots of sea ice research just based from Utqiavik, just going near the shore, maybe 1 mile away from shore, but just being frozen in the ice, in what you are studying is just going to be amazing," said Oggier.